- Sun, 2003-05-18 18:16
I Like Music Interview Inspiral Carpets Founder, Graham Lambert
Inspiral Carpets are one of those great English singles bands. Up there with Madness or The Kinks, those effortless purveyors of a machine gun rush of fine three-minute statements. They've been away for seven years and now they're back. Cool As!
In the late eighties and early nineties Inspiral Carpets hit the charts far more consistently than their fellow Madchester travellers the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. For some, the Inspirals were the outsiders, the runts of the baggy litter, but try telling that to the 14,000 who rammed into GMEX to see them in 1990 or to the legions of fans who used to parade round town on Saturday afternoons in their Cool as F*ck t shirts and Clint Boon bowl head mops.
The greatest pop music always comes from the least likely places and the Inspiral's roots in Oldham and east Manchester serve them well. They were from the same streets as the bulk of the nu pop generation and they instinctively understood which way the wind as blowing.
The motley crew with founder Graham Lambert, a familiar face from the early eighties Peel band music scene, and a hyperactive kid drummer called Craig Gill, who had been gigging the Manchester circuit when mop topped rehearsal room owner Clint Boon wheeled his organ out into the Inspiral's rehearsal room. Clint Boon seemed to know everyone in town - he'd already been in bands with Mani, auditioned Ian Brown as a vocalist in a pre-Inspiral project and was a shameless pop fanatic whose ambition was to be as big as Elvis. Clint's keyboards gave the band a different edge; they made the jump from being a local band to being a pop band. It was the icing on the cake.
Stephen Holt left on good terms to be replaced by Oxford refugee Tom Hingley. Meanwhile, Acid House seemed to be everywhere - everyone went psychedelic even if they didn't like the dance craze, and guitar bands who were a little bit woozy and had light shows were storming it. The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays became a pop sensation and the Inspirals became the final cornerstone in the triumphant Manc trio who were the sound of young Britain in 1989/90.
This was the glory period. Anthems like 'This Is How It Feels', a virtual residency on Top Of the Pops and the classic Reading festival headline and sold out GMex show - plus the masterstroke of the Cool As Fuck T shirt - meant that the Inspiral Carpets were one of the biggest bands in the country.
Devil Hopping was their swansong and their best received album yet. And then just when it seemed like they were going to storm it again they disappeared from view. Their reformation is powered by a great new/lost single; 'Come Back Tomorrow' is a blessing.
I like Music caught up with founder of Inspiral Carpets, Graham Lambert as they release their Come Back Tomorrow and their album, Cool As.
''I like music because…… it makes me happy.'' Graham Lambert, Inspiral Carpets
ILM: So your Cool as 3CD package is out on 19th. Can you give us your own personal description(s) of the previously unreleased tracks, Come Back Tomorrow? Iron and You've Got What It takes?
Graham: They're songs we came up with, just before we split up in 1995, they're the last recordings we did. And on the album we've updated them a bit. But most bands find that the last stuff you do is the best stuff of your career, but it still feels exciting to do them as they feel like relatively new songs. For the freshest sound we've still had to think about how we record them.
ILM: Can you describe the Come Back Tomorrow track and it's vibe?
Graham: Some people would say it's proper Inspirals, elements of retro with a a good beat. We got the vocals down and it's a good feeling song, goodwill kind of tone about it, and with it being called Come Back Tomorrow it's a psychological thing of us being away for seven years but feeling like we've come back tomorrow.
ILM: And how was the seven years away?
Graham: It's been interesting to be away from an environment which is a bubble with four other people really, and out in the big wide world. Butthe good thing about reforming is that any problems that we might have had with each other have just fell by the wayside. And ever since we got back together we've had a good laugh and the spark is still there. So it's been very enjoyable getting back together again. We did need to get away though, to have a break from making music and a break from each other, so that's why in 1995 we went our separate ways.
ILM: A change is as good as a rest anyway isn't it? To come back much fresher, you've grown and stuff.
Graham: Definitely. Definitely! We've all grown up. I mean, seven years is a long time and we've all changed a bit, although we've still got thatchildish sense of humour.
ILM: Of all the tracks you've ever laid down, which was the most fun to make?
Graham: When you do your conventional songs that are written with all the vocal lines and hook lines it's great to make a hit song and rewrite it and tweak it. But you get the best musical vibe when we did some of the B-sides, because there was more spontonaeity, and we had more of a free spirit there, so they were more fun to record.
ILM: Do you have any amusing studio anecdotes?
Graham: Not ones that I'd like to repeat. When we go in to the studio you have to get your thinking caps on, but sometimes we'll have a precious moment, and going over the same piece just to get it right, and someone will appear naked in the control room, or someone will do something daft. It's all good fun.
ILM: Do you still have that bond and chemistry that was there in the early days?
Graham: Yeah, I think you need to be to be in a band, to work off each other, it's ok to be a fantastic musician, which none of us are, we're average. But you need to have some kind to have some kind of underlying vibe that underpins the organisation, and that was there in the early nineties and without any shadow of a doubt it's been rekindled.
ILM: Have you enjoyed your recent live performances?
Graham: The last three gigs we did were really enjoyable, because we weren't going out there with a single in mind hoping to get it in the charts,so we were going out there without any pressure, although we hadn't played live together for eight years in this country, but it was just absolutely pressure-free, and great fun.
ILM: You're going to be performing at V-festival, T in the Park and Move. What Inspiral Carpets track do you love performing the most? And what's been your best ever festival moment?
Graham: The year we headlined Reading Festival in 1990 we headlined on the Saturday night and it was absolutely fantastic. We had all the fireworks going off, and it was great playing songs that we'd been playing in a pub three years before on a stage, and there we were looking out from the stage, and all we could see was a sea of heads, and a few people lighting fires in the distance, and that was amazing atmosphere.
It's something we'll all remember forever. But it's interesting that sometimes you remember the oddest of gigs. I remember we did a gig in East Germany. And I remember it was really strange being in East Germany playing to a group of 30 people, but the fact that 30 people had saved their money to spend on coming to see us was equally touching as when 40,000 people had come to see us two years earlier. We put just as much energy into playing smaller gigs as big ones.
ILM: As Noel Gallagher used to be a roadie for you, what do you think of Oasis and did Noel have tell tell signs that he'd go on to become a global music writer - did he learn from you?
Graham: I love Oasis and I think Noel's one of the best songwriters of the 90s,and he was quite good on all instruments, particularly the guitar and he was obviously very keen to do it. But y'know if you come from Manchester there are so many people out there who do write songs, but don't ever actually get anywhere. So they'd be lots of people who'd say they were going to be in a massive band one day, and he's one who said it to me and went on and really did it.
I think they're fantastic Oasis, a great band. I hadn't seen Noel for a few years but I saw him December at one of their gigs in Liverpool, and he just seems like the same person who used to set our equipment up for us in 1990. But in the press and stuff you don't really get a sense of who people in bands really are, and he's just the same really. Just much richer!
ILM: How does it feel to be going down in history as one of the bands leading a whole new youth culture and genre of music? Do you all have a massive sense of achievement?
Graham: I think as I get older you feel more of a sense of achievement, I never think we were responsible for putting Manchester. We've never rested on our laurels a bit and the world doesn't think of Manchester like it did fourteen or fifteen years ago. Manchester has produced some cracking bands, but times have changed. Ten years ago we were all over the NME, loads of front covers, but now they're not interested in writing about us, but the people who listen to our records probably read Mojo more than NME now, time and people do change.
It's important to change. You can't just walk around Manchester saying I'm one-fifth of one of the biggest UK bands in the 90s. Equally I'm proud of what we did, but time has moved on, and we've all done different things in the years we've been apart. I don't think anyone who's passionate about their music really rests on their laurels, they just keep going. Even Noel Gallagher is the same, moving on and growing your music and embracing new challenges.
ILM: How much is the industry different now to when you first got signed?
Graham: The m usic industry has changed massively. Electronic media coming into it. I remember Clint telling me in 1994 that people would be downloading music through a telephone wire using computers, as it was just starting to be a possibility back then, and that was just as we were finishing intially. Back then we had one mobile phone for the band, the band phone, and now we're able to do live webchats - it's unbelievable howit's changed. I'll get texts to tell me scores of football matches, it's changed so much.
ILM: Talking of football... you recently played the Soccer Six tournament, we won't discuss the results, but who was the best looking player there? And who was the hardest tackler?
Graham: Best looking player? Simon Webbe out of Blue is a good looking lad, but he's a fantastic footballer, he was just brilliant and he looked likeGeorge Best. The hardest person to tackle was John Barnes and he was very difficult to dispossess of the ball! There were four of us choppingat his heels trying to get the ball off him, but Clint chipped it over his head one time. We were the only band there who played in full, and the only band who didn't have an ex pro-player on their side, so that was why we got battered.
ILM: Back in THE DAY, did you hang round with Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, etc, or were you more like rivals?
Graham: Not really. When we were small bands just about to make it, in 1988 we spent a bit of time in the rehearsal rooms, but we came from different areas of Manchester, Stone Roses were from the same place, Happy Mondays were from North West and we were from the North East. We saw them on occasions and didn't dislike them, we just never really went round with another or called on one another.
ILM: If you could bring anyone back from the dead to perform with live, who would it be?
Graham: It would be interesting to hear Tom do a duet with Janice Joplin or Jim Morrison. But his music was made in the 60s so imagine if he came back now to see the music industry now and see mobile phones, not sure what he'd make of that and laptops and everything.
ILM: Do you have any tips for unsigned talent trying to make it in today's industry?
Graham: You've just got to be in the right place at the right time. I think if you're going to make it you will. And you've got to believe in yourself as well.
ILM: Can you describe your favourite place on earth?
Graham: I've just brought a new house, just north of Oldham. So my new house. I'm a cancerian, so I love being at home. I adore the journey the home.
ILM: What is in your CD player right now?
Graham: A CD I got for free off the front cover of Uncut, like a psychaedelic garage band album, and I've played it over and over.
ILM: What does the future hold for Inspirals, will you be writing some new music together if Cool As is Successful As?
Graham: Good question! I don't know. If the album is successful then we'll look at it, but at the moment we've got no plans. We'll just go with the flow.